At first the main focus in research lay on local affects of acid rain. Public awareness of acid rain in the U. S increased in the s after The New York Times published reports from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire of the myriad deleterious environmental effects shown to result from it. Occasional pH readings in rain and fog water of well below 2. These areas all burn sulphur-containing coal to generate heat and electricity. The problem of acid rain has not only increased with population and industrial growth, but has become more widespread.
The use of tall smokestacks to reduce local pollution has contributed to the spread of acid rain by releasing gases into regional atmospheric circulation. An example of this effect is the low pH of rain which falls in Scandinavia. The earliest report about acid rain in the United States was from the chemical evidence from Hubbard Brook Valley. In , a group of scientists including Gene Likens discovered the rain that was deposited at White Mountains of New Hampshire was acidic. The pH of the sample was measured to be 4. Acid rain that mixed with stream water at Hubbard Brook was neutralized by the alumina from soils.
Experimental research was done to examine the effects of increased acidity in stream on ecological species. There was a decrease in species diversity, an increase in community dominants, and a decrease in the food web complexity. In , the U. Congress passed an Acid Deposition Act. NAPAP looked at the entire problem from a scientific perspective.
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It enlarged a network of monitoring sites to determine how acidic the precipitation actually was, and to determine long-term trends, and established a network for dry deposition. It looked at the effects of acid rain and funded research on the effects of acid precipitation on freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, historical buildings, monuments, and building materials. It also funded extensive studies on atmospheric processes and potential control programs.
From the start, policy advocates from all sides attempted to influence NAPAP activities to support their particular policy advocacy efforts, or to disparage those of their opponents.
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Government's scientific enterprise, a significant impact of NAPAP were lessons learned in the assessment process and in environmental research management to a relatively large group of scientists, program managers and the public. In , the National Academy of Sciences was looking into research about the controversial issues regarding acid rain. In , the panel of scientists came up with a draft report, which concluded that acid rain is a real problem and solutions should be sought.
In May , the House of Representatives voted against legislations that aimed to control sulphur emissions. There was a debate about whether Nierenberg delayed to release the report. Nierenberg himself denied the saying about his suppression of the report and explained that the withheld of the report after the House's vote was due to the fact that the report was not ready to be published. Subsequent Reports to Congress have documented chemical changes in soil and freshwater ecosystems, nitrogen saturation, decreases in amounts of nutrients in soil, episodic acidification, regional haze, and damage to historical monuments.
Meanwhile, in , the U.
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Congress passed a series of amendments to the Clean Air Act. Title IV called for a total reduction of about 10 million tons of SO 2 emissions from power plants. It was implemented in two phases. Phase I began in , and limited sulphur dioxide emissions from of the largest power plants to a combined total of 8. Phase II began in , and affects most of the power plants in the country. During the s, research continued. This rule provides states with a solution to the problem of power plant pollution that drifts from one state to another.
Overall, the program's cap and trade program has been successful in achieving its goals. In , total SO 2 emissions were 8. In , by which time the cap and trade system had been augmented by the George W. The term Citizen science can be traced back as far as January and a campaign by the Audubon Society to measure Acid rain.
A European Perspective' a first use of the term 'citizen science' by R. The first recorded example of the use of the term is from , describing how volunteers across the US collected rain samples to assist the Audubon Society in an acid-rain awareness raising campaign. The volunteers collected samples, checked for acidity, and reported back to the organization. The information was then used to demonstrate the full extent of the phenomenon. The most important gas which leads to acidification is sulphur dioxide.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides which are oxidized to form nitric acid are of increasing importance due to stricter controls on emissions of sulphur containing compounds. The principal natural phenomena that contribute acid-producing gases to the atmosphere are emissions from volcanoes. Acid-producing gasses are also created by biological processes that occur on the land, in wetlands , and in the oceans.
The major biological source of sulphur containing compounds is dimethyl sulfide. Nitric acid in rainwater is an important source of fixed nitrogen for plant life, and is also produced by electrical activity in the atmosphere such as lightning. Acidic deposits have been detected in glacial ice thousands of years old in remote parts of the globe.
Soils of coniferous forests are naturally very acidic due to the shedding of needles, and the results of this phenomenon should not be confused with acid rain. The principal cause of acid rain is sulphur and nitrogen compounds from human sources, such as electricity generation , factories, and motor vehicles. Electrical power generation using coal is among the greatest contributors to gaseous pollutions that are responsible for acidic rain. The gases can be carried hundreds of kilometers in the atmosphere before they are converted to acids and deposited.
In the past, factories had short funnels to let out smoke but this caused many problems locally; thus, factories now have taller smoke funnels. However, dispersal from these taller stacks causes pollutants to be carried farther, causing widespread ecological damage. Combustion of fuels produces sulphur dioxide and nitric oxides. They are converted into sulphuric acid and nitric acid.
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In the gas phase sulphur dioxide is oxidized by reaction with the hydroxyl radical via an intermolecular reaction: In the presence of water, sulphur trioxide SO 3 is converted rapidly to sulphuric acid:. Nitrogen dioxide reacts with OH to form nitric acid:.
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When clouds are present, the loss rate of SO 2 is faster than can be explained by gas phase chemistry alone. This is due to reactions in the liquid water droplets. There are a large number of aqueous reactions that oxidize sulphur from S IV to S VI , leading to the formation of sulphuric acid. The most important oxidation reactions are with ozone , hydrogen peroxide and oxygen reactions with oxygen are catalyzed by iron and manganese in the cloud droplets. Wet deposition of acids occurs when any form of precipitation rain, snow, and so on. This can result from the deposition of acids produced in the raindrops see aqueous phase chemistry above or by the precipitation removing the acids either in clouds or below clouds.
Wet removal of both gases and aerosols are both of importance for wet deposition. Acid deposition also occurs via dry deposition in the absence of precipitation. Acid rain has been shown to have adverse impacts on forests, freshwaters and soils, killing insect and aquatic life-forms as well as causing damage to buildings and having impacts on human health.
Both the lower pH and higher aluminium concentrations in surface water that occur as a result of acid rain can cause damage to fish and other aquatic animals. At pHs lower than 5 most fish eggs will not hatch and lower pHs can kill adult fish. As lakes and rivers become more acidic biodiversity is reduced. Acid rain has eliminated insect life and some fish species, including the brook trout in some lakes, streams, and creeks in geographically sensitive areas, such as the Adirondack Mountains of the United States.
Soil biology and chemistry can be seriously damaged by acid rain. Some microbes are unable to tolerate changes to low pH and are killed. The hydronium ions of acid rain also mobilize toxins , such as aluminium, and leach away essential nutrients and minerals such as magnesium. Soil chemistry can be dramatically changed when base cations, such as calcium and magnesium, are leached by acid rain thereby affecting sensitive species, such as sugar maple Acer saccharum. Adverse effects may be indirectly related to acid rain, like the acid's effects on soil see above or high concentration of gaseous precursors to acid rain.
High altitude forests are especially vulnerable as they are often surrounded by clouds and fog which are more acidic than rain. Other plants can also be damaged by acid rain, but the effect on food crops is minimized by the application of lime and fertilizers to replace lost nutrients.
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In cultivated areas, limestone may also be added to increase the ability of the soil to keep the pH stable, but this tactic is largely unusable in the case of wilderness lands. When calcium is leached from the needles of red spruce, these trees become less cold tolerant and exhibit winter injury and even death.
Acid rain has a much less harmful effect on the oceans. Normal rain has a pH of about 5. Acid rain usually has a pH between 4. Unlike wet deposition, dry deposition is difficult and expensive to measure. When acid deposition is washed into lakes and streams, it can cause some to turn acidic. The Long-Term Monitoring LTM Network measures and monitors surface water chemistry at over sites to provide valuable information on aquatic ecosystem health and how water bodies respond to changes in acid-causing emissions and acid deposition.
Contact Us to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem. Jump to main content. An official website of the United States government. What is Acid Rain? What Causes Acid Rain? Burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity. Vehicles and heavy equipment. Manufacturing, oil refineries and other industries. Forms of Acid Deposition Wet Deposition Wet deposition is what we most commonly think of as acid rain.
Measuring Acid Rain Acidity and alkalinity are measured using a pH scale for which 7.